The Third Wish Always Taking the Form of a Retraction |
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The Third Wish Always Taking the Form of a Retraction

2010 Poetry Contest – Honorable Mention

Sometime between the hen and the singing harp, Jack's mother changes her
mind. Yes, the gold eggs glitter in the morning, yes, she eats off coins the size of 
saucers, yes, she knows tomorrow he will bring another wonder down the
beanstalk and the whole village will talk of only Jack, glorious Jack, brave strong
nimble Jack, whose little feet can outrun the rain from leaf to leaf.

Too easily in her dreams, Jack is the one who falls from the sky, the shrieking
harp tumbling from his grasp, her arpeggios strewn across the sun. He grabs
bean leaves by the fistful. Splinters of wood, splinters of bone, the giant eats his
bread with jam.

And for what. All she wants is the old cow back and a quiet hut. No feathers in
the cupboards, no screeching treasures, nothing to guard. She watches the gold
all night and staggers the eggs to market two or three at a time. She's developed a 
tic, her spine shrinks, her dead husband wants his share of the spoils. She sits in
her rocker and longs for her boy back, fishing pole and yellow pup, mud in his 
toes instead of cloud.

She thinks, even if he did succeed, ten years later the hen would stop laying and
still no cow. The gold stolen and her hair gone white, the giant's carcass still
rotting like an Everest of stinking flesh outside the kitchen window. Jack is tone
deaf and the harp misses the giant, the way his big fists whiskered her strings. All
day the pretty thing wails, fee fie, fee fie.

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Christie Taylor is a Madison-born science writer and essayist, and former producer of the national radio show Science Friday. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and misses the prairie.

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